The Gospel of Mark 6:30-34,
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 22, 2018
In the first reading Jeremiah condemns the evil shepherds, i.e., the kings of Judah who worship false gods and thereby encourage idolatry among the Jewish people. Four hundred years later Jesus’ heart is “moved with pity” as He looks over a crowd of Galileans who are also being led astray, “like sheep without a shepherd.” However this time the idolatry is the Pharisee’s unyielding fixation upon the Law with its hundreds of rules and regulations that Jesus repeatedly condemns in he gospels (Lk 14:1 -6).
If you’ve heard the expression, “like a fish out of water,” then you also know “like a sheep without a shepherd.” For just as a fish needs water to survive, so also does a sheep need at least other sheep and most importantly a shepherd to survive! A sheep alone in the wilderness without a shepherd is only fast food for a hungry predator.
After the Resurrection Jesus the Good Shepherd promised the Apostles to send the Spirit of Truth Who “will guide you into all the truth” (Jn 16:13). “Guide” suggests a shepherd and “into,” a safe, secure enclosure. Yet is this how people today—even some Catholics—really see the truth of the Church’s teaching on faith and morals?
Years ago, Pope Benedict XVI, recalled the teaching of theologian Fr. Romano Guardini (1885-1968) on truth and how it made a deep impression on him. Reading these words from Fr. Guardini’s Learning the Virtues That Lead You To God, and faced with current cultural trends that seek to upend the truth regarding the human person and the Sacrament of Matrimony, we are forever grateful to our Lord Who ensures that we are not left helpless as sheep would be without a shepherd: “Truth gives firmness and stability. One has need of these, for life is not only a friend, but also an enemy. Everywhere interests oppose each other. Constantly we meet touchiness, envy, jealousy, and hatred. The very differences of disposition and points of view cause complications.
“(But) . . . it is through truth that the spirit of man is constantly confirmed in its natural rights, and the person is reassured of his dignity and freedom. When a person says, ‘It is so,’ and this statement has weight in public because truth is honored, then he is protected against the force inherent in every government. But if the government succeeds in depriving truth of its value, then the individual is helpless.”